Jennifer Aspinall is one of the most prolific and respected artists in the world of makeup. Her creations have been seen by millions, including her work on Saturday Night Live and her Emmy award winning work on MAD TV. To horror film fans, she’s best recognized for her inventively gruesome special makeup effects in the 1980s cult classics “The Toxic Avenger” and “Street Trash.”
Ms. Aspinall was kind enough to take time out for a chat about her life and career.
How did you become interested in makeup?
I was really really shy as a kid, and I liked to disguise myself. I found a book at the library called “Stage Makeup” by Richard Corson, this book is a makeup artist’s bible. It gives you pretty much all the basic information you’d ever need to know. So for me that book was amazingly inspiring. I got really into illusion. I would make myself up, and disguise myself, and be different people. This is about when I was nine years old. When I was ten my next door neighbor, who produced dinner theater and summer stock, took me to a professional makeup supplier in Philadelphia. By the time I was eleven, going into twelve, I started working for her doing theater productions. I celebrated my twelfth birthday onstage, doing a dinner theater production. And from that point on I just continued working.
A New York City based actor since the early 1980s, Matt Mitler’s charisma and humor landed him many memorable roles during New York’s last great era of independentexploitation film, including “Deadtime Stories,” “Basket Case 2,” the slasher favorite “The Mutilator” and several films for b-movie auteurs Tim Kincaid and Brett Piper. Mr. Mitler was kind enough to speak with me about his life and career:
When did you realize you wanted to be an actor?
I don’t know if I can really pinpoint that, but what I can say is that – and I actually have a radio program that’s premiering right now – it’s my first radio program since I was a little kid, because I grew up on the radio. My father owned a station, and my mother had a live show that was broadcast from our kitchen in Newport, Rhode Island. That started when I was born, and I was on the air as soon as I could talk. I was on the air with that program for five, six years, and then off and on the radio station until we moved out of Newport, when I was ten. So I had this whole experience with radio. And it was very compelling for me, but I didn’t have any sense of “Yeah, I want to be an actor.” But because of the radio and because my mother’s program was fairly humorous – she was very improvisational, very cutting in a sort of Lenny Bruce type of way – she would improvise with me, a little kid who didn’t really know what he was saying, but it was all impromptu and live so whatever I said she would just kind of riff on. It got me into this world of comedy even before I understood what that was. I would listen to her comedy albums, memorize them and recite them at cocktail parties and then be sent to bed. I’d be doing a Lenny Bruce routine, standing there as a five or six year old, then “Okay, go to bed now!”